March 22 Sunday Show Ratings: Face the Nation Attracts Its Largest Audience Since 1991

By A.J. Katz 

Wall-to-wall coverage of the novel coronavirus pandemic is giving news programming a massive ratings boost, and that includes the Sunday shows.

This past week, each of the big four posted significant year-over-year growth.

One week after averaging its largest audience in three years, the March 22 edition of CBS’ Face the Nation with Margaret Brennan attracted its largest audience since Feb. 24, 1991: 5.14 million Total Viewers. That’s more Total Viewers than the competition.


FTN also delivered 1.23 million Adults 25-54. That’s the program’s best delivery in the demo since Jan. 3, 2016. However, it wasn’t quite enough for first place.

NBC Meet the Press with Chuck Todd was the No. 2 Sunday show in Total Viewers, averaging 4.8 million, which is the show’s largest total since Dec. 7, 2008. However, it remained the top Sunday show among Adults 25-54, and in the process, drew its largest demo audience in three years (1.37 million viewers). An additional 323,000 total viewers watched a rebroadcast on NBC.

ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos took third place across the board this past Sunday. However, the broadcast drew its largest overall audience in over 3 years and its best Adults 25-54 performance in 2 1/2 years – since Jan. 8, 2017 and Sept. 10, 2017, respectively. Season to date, This Week leads Face the Nation in Adults 25-54 (+8,000 – 681,000 vs. 673,000), leading the CBS program at this point of the season for the 4th time in the last 5 seasons.

John Roberts filled in for Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday this past week. The Fox broadcast drew 1.97 million Total Viewers and 607,000 A25-54 viewers, the largest audience in both categories since Dec. 11, 2016. The cable replays drew a combined 7.65 million Total Viewers and 1.83 million demo viewers. Combined with the broadcast edition, that’s 9.6 million Total Viewers and 2.4 demo viewers on March 22.

The original Nielsen numbers for March 15 2020:

Network Program Total Viewers A25-54
CBS Face the Nation (1/2 hr) 5,142,000 1,226,000
NBC Meet the Press 4,848,000 1,366,000
ABC This Week 4,244,000 1,177,000
FOX Fox News Sunday 1,974,000 607,000

Source: The Nielsen Company, NTI (Total Viewers and Adults 25-54); Live + SD for 3/22/20, and 3/24/19 or as dated.  Most Current: 2019 -2020 Season (9/23/19 – 3/22/20) and 2018 -2019 Season (9/24/19 – 3/24/19).  Averages based on regular telecasts.